Saturday, 2 August 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Squares

strawberry rhubarb squares

Florida has oranges, California grapes, India the magnificent mango… and what do we have here in Calgary?  Rhubarb, not even a fruit, but an odd vegetable stolen by school children so the stems can be jammed into an also stolen jar of sugar.  Without sugar, the sour stalk is too shocking.

Nevertheless, we love our rhubarb, though most people just buy it.  I still have an old fashioned rhubarb patch in my garden, and once a year I harvest a few stalks.  The distinctive flavour is tart yet delicious, as long as it’s tempered with sugar, and less sugar is needed when strawberries help out. 
Rhubarb is the stalk of the huge leafed plant to left.

These squares are based on another Canadian favourite, date squares, but bad dogs had trampled my rhubarb plant, and so two stalks needed harvesting.  What an excuse that was to substitute strawberry and rhubarb for the date puree..  

I would have preferred this recipe with three stalks, but didn’t want to deplete my plant. 

This recipe makes an 8 by 8 inch pan of squares, and takes about two hours, from start to gobbling warm squares.

Rhubarb stalks
2 stalks rhubarb (3 would be better), chopped
1 cup strawberries
water to cover
½ to 1 cup jaggery powder (raw Indian sugar)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¾ cup jaggery powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 ½ cups unrefined oat flakes
½ cup hemp hearts (optional)
2/3 cup soft butter 

Start by making the filling. Combine rhubarb, strawberries and the first half cup of jaggery.  You can buy jaggery in Indian grocery aisles, or use brown sugar if you must.  Cover with water and set on medium high heat.  This takes a while to cook down to a paste, so check on sweetness as it’s cooking.  Add as much of the jaggery as you require.  Within half an hour, it should be thick enough.  Stir to make sure no liquid rests in the pan.  Set aside.

Don't expect it to be pretty when it's cooked!
In a mixer, use the paddle to slowly combine the flour, baking powder, salt, jaggery, cinnamon, oats, hemp and butter.  I like the hemp hearts because they’re super healthy, but you can omit them and use more oats in their place.  

When the mixture is crumbly, spread a little more than half the mix over the baking pan.  Press down with your fingers to create a firm base. 

The Great Canadian Cookbook, by Bunny Barss
This recipe has been adapted from Barss' recipe for date squares!
Spread all the rhubarb mix over the base; then use your fingers again to sprinkle the remaining flour mix over the rhubarb.  Gently press down to even out, and bake at 350 F for about forty minutes or till golden. 

These can be served warm with ice-cream, or chilled.  Buttery, tart, sweet… a very delicious cold climate treat!

strawberry and rhubarb squares
Why not try these for Heritage Day?  What could be more Canadian, eh?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Wilma’s Miracle Cheese Biscuits

Wilma's Miracle Cheese Biscuits (spicy version)

I’ve been making baking powder biscuits since forever, and never knew they could be this easy.  When Wilma set these out for the bookclub ladies, and told us how she’d made them, I thought she was forgetting a few ingredients.  She later emailed the recipe, and I was still doubtful till I tried them myself.

As usual, I’ve dolled them up with chilies and herbs, (my additions are in Italics) but I’ll list the basic ingredients first, so you can see how ridiculously easy these are.  I’m contemplating a sweet version to use for a shortcake recipe, but that’s for later this week.  For now, we’re sticking with this flavourful and spicy version. 
Mix dry ingredients and cheese with a fork.
These take about forty-five minutes, from when you begin assembling ingredients to when you’re popping these lovelies into your mouth.  This recipe makes about eight biscuits, but it can be doubled.  Bake at 400 F.

1 cup flour  (use whole wheat)
1 cup grated sharp cheese  (use a good one)
2 tsp baking powder
2 garlic scapes, chopped (scallions would be good too!)
two stems cilantro, chopped
1 chili, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon black poppy seeds
a pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup ice cold water
1 tablespoon (plus) butter for greasing cookie sheet

Once well mixed, add the ice-water but don't stir too much.

Preheat the oven and generously butter a cookie sheet. Leave bits of butter here and there.  

Combine the dry ingredients with a fork.  Add the ice-water, and stir just to combine.  You can use a spoon to drop the dough onto the cookie sheet, or use your hands, like I did.  Bake at 400 degrees F for eight to ten minutes.  Cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes, then move to a rack to cool a bit more.

Serve warm or chilled, either way you'll love their flavourful cheesiness, and be congratulating yourself on how easily these are made. 
I moved these bits of butter closer to the dough. Yummmm

I made a batch over the weekend, and have been pretty much living on them.  Delicious with a cup of strong milk coffee for breakfast, but great with eggs bhurji too!

Great with more garlic scape eggs bhurji...

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lettuce Lassie (Greens and Berry Smoothie)

Lettuce Lassie (Greens and Berry Smoothie)

How much easier can it be?
Lettuce Lassie—it sounds like some kind of a proposition, but no, I’m referring to the leafy greens rather than the invitation, and the Indian lassie is the original smoothie.  I’ve a great deal of lettuce growing in the garden, and mixing it into a berry smoothie is a wonderful way to use it.

This recipe makes two medium sized smoothies, or one that is painfully large.  It takes about five minutes to prepare, including picking time, unless you need to add in a few hours to freeze some bananas if you have no frozen berries on hand.

1 banana (fresh or frozen)
1 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup ice cubes (optional)
a small bunch of cleaned fresh green lettuce, (I have a variety so I took a few leaves from several plants)
½ cup plain yogurt
520 mls unsweetened coconut water (or optionally milk)
½ teaspoon rosewater (optional)

This quick smoothie is based on the idea of some kind of frozen fruit.  If you use all fresh, you can add ice-cubes.  I buy frozen organic strawberries and blueberries, and I use fresh bananas.  But when bananas get spots, peel them, bag them, and toss them in the freezer.  They can be used for smoothies or baking, and they won’t go to waste.

You'll notice I have no sweetener in this recipe.  I find the banana adds enough sweetness, but you could add a little something if you prefer.  I said a little!

Add all ingredients to a large blender and buzz.  Pour into serving glasses and enjoy! 

Lettuce, strawberry, blueberry and banana smoothie
Strawberries are a natural coolant, and coconut water is an excellent hydrator!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Garlic Scape Bhurji (Eggs)

Garlic Scape Bhurji (eggs)

If you have garlic scapes on hand, this will take about seven minutes to prepare.  If not, and there are none in the shops, ten months and seven minutes.  If you’ve never had garlic scapes before, close your browser and head to the market this very minute.  These flavour a dish better than just about anything else in this entire world.

I made only enough for my selfish, selfish self, but you can increase the ingredients to feed more people.

garlic scapes
Cut into strips and line up to chop easily.
a bit of oil
½ teaspoon cumin seed
¼ teaspoon mustard seed
2 garlic scapes, chopped
1 chili, chopped (or to taste)
3 mushrooms, sliced
a few sprinkles turmeric (about 1/8th teaspoon)
a few grates of black pepper
salt to taste
2 eggs
a few stalks fresh cilantro, chopped  

Garlic scapes in distance
Garlic scapes up close
If you don’t have garlic scapes available, plant in  September, and let them do their thing.  (In this area ten months are required before scapes can be snapped away from the garlic stems.)  

Keep some turmeric in a salt shaker!
I used canola oil, but butter would have been that much nicer.  Heat on medium high, and add cumin and mustard seed.  

Let sizzle for a few moments, then add scapes and chili.  Add sliced mushrooms and stir occasionally, till they start to get golden in places.  Add the turmeric and salt, then crack the eggs into the pan one by one.  

This is where it gets tricky.  You don’t want to stir too quickly or the bhurji gets broken into almost curdled pieces.  Slowly lift the eggs around in this mix. They will cook within a few minutes.  As they start to cook, add the cilantro. Slowly stir around to make sure no area gets too dry, and no area is too wet and runny. 

Turn out onto plates as soon as all is cooked.  This is a fast dish, and so flavourful!

If you've never grown these, start this fall!  

Garlic Scape Eggs Bhurji
Ridiculously tasty!

And here we have the spot where my beautiful breakfast was gobbled-

A little tour of my garden


Friday, 18 July 2014

Lavender Lemon Blueberry Buckle

Lavender Lemon Blueberry Buckle

It sounds more complicated than it is.  Unless you don’t have any lavender sugar lying around, in which case you will have to acquire some, either by steeping your own which will take several weeks if you have lavender on hand, or even longer if you need to grow it.  On the other hand, you can buy food grade lavender in shops, and even lavender sugar, so you could try that.

But once you have lavender sugar, this is pretty easy.  The pretty cake is baked at 350 F and it takes about a couple of hours from start to eating time. The ingredients are healthy too!

The Dough
lemon and zester
Use a zester or a peeler and cut finely.
Fresh zest, not some old jarred powder!
½ cup softened butter
3/4 cup jaggery (raw Indian cane sugar, or use brown, if you must.)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
½ cup plain yogurt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
extra butter for greasing a nine inch cake tin
2 cups blueberries

The Buckle
¼ cup jaggery (or the brown, if you must…)
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
½ cup butter
½ cup chopped pistachios or sliced almonds
a few sprinkles of Kosher salt  

I adapted this recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which is ironically ancient.  You could follow their recipe, provided you use butter for both dough and buckle and make a nice cake, but this one’s more up to date, and healthy too. 

Page 48 of Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1971
Old and stained, but great for basic recipes!

Begin by creaming the butter and jaggery together in an electric mixer, using the paddle.  When the mix is light and fluffy, add the egg, and continue to beat till it’s mixed in and gets light and fluffy.  Use a spatula to scrape often. 

Add the vanilla and lemon zest to the yogurt, and set aside near mixer.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt with a fork till it’s well mixed. 

Bring to mixer.  Turn off mixer and add a third of the dry mix along with a third of the yogurt mix.  Turn on to low speed and stir, then add the next third of flour and yogurt, and stir, then the final third of the dry and wet mixes.  Stir till combined, only.  You don’t want to overbeat the dough.  Press the dough evenly into the well buttered cake tin (I used a spring form) and layer blueberries over the dough.  I used frozen, which increases the baking time. Set aside.

To make the buckle, add sugars, flour and butter to the mixer.  (No need to clean it first.)  Turn on low, then move speed up gradually till the butter makes a large crumb mix.  Add the last of the lemon zest and mix another few moments.  With your fingers, evenly sprinkle the buckle over the blueberries.  Finally sprinkle on the chopped nuts.  I would have preferred sliced almonds, but had to settle for the pistachios, which were on hand.  Finally, sprinkle just a few grains of coarse salt over the mix, very sparingly. 

Baking time will vary according to your blueberries.  If you’re lucky enough to have fresh, go for about forty-five minutes.  If you’re using frozen, increase the cooking time by fifteen minutes, so the cake will bake for an hour.  Either way, check for doneness with a toothpick.  Set  on a rack for five minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on that rack till it’s cool enough to slice. This goes nicely with coffee but it would also be lovely with a nice cup of herbal tea.  Yes, I think that’s how I’ll enjoy this final piece.

Um, I made this cake this morning, and this is all I have left.  Sigh…

Lavender Lemon Blueberry Buckle, only one slice left
I could cut it in two, and share, I suppose, if I got caught with this...